The Celtics fought hard and walked away with the victory in their first playoff game of the season Monday night. They took over the fourth quarter and held on against an always tough Philadelphia 76ers team. One of the bigger takeaways from this game was the Celtics completely dominating the turnover battle. The Sixers finished the game with 18 turnovers (13 in the first half) compared to only seven from the Celtics (second fewest of the season). This discrepancy was a major part of Boston’s success. The -11 turnover differential tied for the best differential in franchise playoff history. The team was able to play solid defense rotating and collapsing down on players in the post making it difficult for the Sixers to find an open man. It was coupled with just some sloppy play from Philly as well.
The Sixers struggled mightily in that first half. There were sloppy passes and boneheaded decisions that contributed to their disjointed team chemistry and style. Even with the sloppy play, give the Celtics some credit on making it difficult denying open passing lanes. Once players like Joel Embiid caught the ball at the point of entry, multiple defenders were thrown at him to disrupt him. Celtics are playing to not let him beat them. This, in turn, caused Embiid to have 5 turnovers on his own.
It was a defensive strategy to collapse down and double Embiid once he started posting up at the block. Hayward rotates all the way around and disrupts Embiid’s dribble. That creates the fast break opportunity that ends with a Theis follow-up. Of the eighteen turnovers, about six or seven of them are from digging at the ball handler to cause the turnover.
The key thing about all these turnovers was the Celtics’ ability to turn them into points. Boston had 21 points off TO’s. The offense got into transition and found its flow from there. Without these early first half turnovers, it could have been a completely different game.
Jaylen Brown creates the steal picking the pocket of Shake Milton, and then the offense got out in transition for an “easy” two. Especially this early in the game, it is great to have these turnovers lead to points. It kick starts the offense and has the guys running for easy layups pushing through any possible nerves or early game struggles. It was crucial for the Celtics to capitalize on those turnovers by pushing the pace in transition.
It is only one game, but the Celtics came away with a huge victory. The Sixers have had the Celtics number this season, and the roster definitely needed to see one end up in the win column. It gives them a blueprint: double Embiid at the point of entry to create a difficult time for him. That combined with limiting their own turnovers, and it is an easy solution for the win.